A week of controversy, tragedy and aiming high for our children

It has been a week of controversy and tragedy, which started with the court appearance of the $400,000 tala drug bust Vietnamese national, the mysterious death of a church pastor and a woman, and culminated with the jailing of two nurses at the center of two infant vaccination deaths last year. 

But first things first. We cannot go past the Government finally throwing some light on the PACER Plus agreement. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) finally broke its silence to admit in a statement that the trade agreement was ratified and parties were advised last month during the 2019 Pacific Games.

It was not hard after all telling the truth, and the two-week regional sporting event hosted by Samoa, appeared to be the perfect cover for the Ministry and the Government to escape scrutiny over this agreement.

However, Samoa has not entirely crossed the bridge just yet, with Cabinet yet to sign off on key provisions which are considered essential to full ratification. They are the Customs Amendment Regulations 2019 and the Customs (Rules of Origin for PACER Plus) Order 2019. Only time will tell if the word of caution from public commentators such as the Fiu Mataese Elisara, the Executive Director for Ole Siosiomaga Samoa Society Incorporated, will come back to haunt the Government.

With the court proceedings of the Vietnamese national now underway, debate continues amongst law enforcement officers, on whether the Police made an error in their estimate of the drug hauls’ street value. But now is not the time to squabble over the technical details of the illegal cargo – the fact of the matter is the Vietnamese national had drugs in her luggage when she arrived from Fiji. She would have been sentenced to death if she was caught in her home country, therefore she should be made to face the full force of the law as a deterrence to others.

The gruesome discovery of the bodies of a church pastor and a woman in a car early Thursday morning, only confirms how vulnerable our lives can be. We can only hope that the Police investigations will shed more light on the homicide case, and more importantly bring justice and closure to the affected families.

And finally the MMR vaccination controversy was brought to a close when the two nurses Luse Emo Tauvale and Leutogi Te’o were sentenced to five years imprisonment by the Samoa Supreme Court. The deaths of the two infants – Lannah Samuelu of sasina and Lameko Siu of Safotu Savai’i – led to a nationwide ban on the administration of the vaccine and separate investigations and inquiries. There were emotional scenes at the court precinct after their sentencing, with the presiding Justice and Acting Chief Justice Vui Clarence Nelson highlighting the vulnerability of children, and the need for society to treat them with care.

“Children are of the vulnerable groups in any society; it is therefore incumbent that society takes particular care when it comes to [their] treatment, health and wellbeing," he said in his sentencing remarks. 

“In this case the defendants completely and utterly failed."

One good news from this tragedy is the review of the administration of vaccines by the Ministry of Health (MOH) staff, and further training for nurses done in partnership with medical specialists from New Zealand. 

The sentencing of the nurses – while unfortunate for their immediate families, relatives and friends – should also compel other Government service providers, who have oversight over children to raise their game in line with the recommendations of the Acting Chief Justice. 

Have a lovely Saturday Samoa and God bless. 

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